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This New Law Could Have a Huge Effect on Scotland Golf Vacations

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When I heard about this the other day, I was absolutely shocked.

A new law took effect in January 1 of this year that will have a pretty significant effect on anyone looking to take a golf vacation in Scotland.

Let’s just say Scotland is getting drier, but not for the reason you’d hope…

From this year on, you can still enjoy the many pubs of Scotland, but you'd better have a plan for returning safely to your lodgings. (Larry Gavrich)

From this year on, you can still enjoy the many pubs of Scotland, but you’d better have a plan for returning safely to your lodgings. (Larry Gavrich)

Here’s the deal: effective January 1, 2015, Scotland’s government lowered the legal blood-alcohol limit while driving from .08 to .05.

In many cases, an average-sized man’s blood-alcohol content would reach that point after just a single pint of beer — even less, in fact.

Scotland golf trip? New law could put you “over-the-limit” with just 1 drink

Part of what has made Scotland one of the best places in the world to play golf is that it is customary to enjoy a couple post-round pints of beer and/or tipples of scotch in one of the many pubs that dot the towns near its courses. We have especially cherished hearing some hilarious stories from locals–fellow golfers and caddies alike–in such establishments.

But now, if you are part of a group and have rented a car, there’s pretty much no way to avoid having to have a 100% sober driver each night. And while that’s good practice in general, it adds a bit of stress to what should be a relaxing experience.

The region’s pubs have taken as much as a 60% hit in the two months since the new drunk-driving regulations have been in effect, according to a report in the Scottish Express newspaper.

That means that pretty soon, not only will you have to drink less than you otherwise might in Scotland, you’ll probably pay more for the privilege! After all, pub proprietors will need to recoup their losses somehow.

This chart illustrates just how little one needs to drink in order to be above Scotland's new legal alcohol limit for driving. (BACtrack.com)

This chart illustrates just how little one needs to drink in order to be above Scotland’s new legal alcohol limit for driving. Keep in mind a pint of beer is 16 ounces, not 12. (BACtrack.com)

According to police and other advocates of this law, no fewer than 20 people die and 90 more are seriously injured each year in car accidents involving drunk drivers in Scotland. The hope among the law’s proponents is that those numbers will decline in the future.

Note: If this is a Scotland golf trip-breaker for you, keep in mind that the legal limit in England, Wales and Northern Ireland remains at .08, at least for now. It’s understandable to expect this law to have a ripple effect, though. Stay tuned.

For tourists (especially Americans), this could make driving Scotland’s notoriously narrow and winding roads an even dicier proposition than it used to be. Even before this law change, we’ve heard stories about 100% sober drivers getting mistakenly pulled over by police while getting acclimated to driving on the “wrong side” of the road/car.

Now, if you’ve had even a single pint, you could be in real trouble.

If you haven’t already guessed, this new law should persuade you to think even more seriously about hiring a driver for your group’s next Scotland excursion. We recommend it, particularly if your trip will take you to a few towns and cities.

A number of travel agencies will be happy to arrange this for you, and if you need any recommendations, just email editor@golfvacationinsider.com.

What do you think of this change in Scotland’s laws? As always, please share your thoughts or read what others are saying below.

77 Comments

  1. Dale

    March 5, 2015 at 11:17 am

    Keep in mind that a pint of beer in Scotland is 20oz not 16oz as in the US

  2. George

    March 5, 2015 at 11:23 am

    Why would a group NOT take advantage of a hired driver as part of a package. Just to be warm, fuzzy , and safe.

  3. Dalene

    March 5, 2015 at 11:24 am

    Lucky for us We dont drink?????

  4. Dalene

    March 5, 2015 at 11:25 am

    Lucky we do not drink??? Sorry for the losers who do!

  5. Mark

    March 5, 2015 at 11:27 am

    I’m always the designated driver when I go on golf trips. I volunteer to take that equation out of the trip . I can still have alot of fun without drinking. If it will save 1 life its worth it, It sounds a litle over the top but I guess their trying to drive the point home hard and right away.

  6. KIrk

    March 5, 2015 at 11:30 am

    Good reason to get a professional driver while in Scotland…

  7. David

    March 5, 2015 at 11:31 am

    So just call a cab to pick you up and take you back home

  8. David

    March 5, 2015 at 11:32 am

    Call a cab. No since getting dui in another country

  9. Ros

    March 5, 2015 at 11:35 am

    Get a taxi!

  10. Ros

    March 5, 2015 at 11:36 am

    Get a taxi. Don’t drink and drive. It’s that simple.

  11. armitage shanks

    March 5, 2015 at 11:37 am

    Wow. Creating false hysteria around this issue is rather transparent. Your sensational headline is in truth, just knicker twisting to sell the services of advertisers for Scottish Tours. The real issue is not the drinking and driving, it’s the escalating cost of playing the game in Scotland as a tourist. Do you have any statistics to share about the percentage of golf tourists who are arrested or injured due to alchol consumption. Is Scotland as a nation now focused on snaring tourists? By yelling “fire” on a crowded teebox, you insure a couple of “shanks”, and in the process flush the very idea of visiting Scotland right out of a person’s mind. I read your whole article, to reach the part about your willingness to help with “recommendations for travel agencies”, it just seems duplicitous on Golf Insider’s part to present the new Scottish law in this way.

  12. Kelly

    March 5, 2015 at 11:38 am

    If you are going to not go golfing in Scotland because you can’t drink and drive, you need to rethink a whole lot of your priorities in life.

    As for Dalene, it’s not lucky that you don’t drink. It’s a personal choice that everyone makes. Whether you drink or not, that doesn’t make you a loser. Many very successful people have an alcoholic beverage.

  13. Frank

    March 5, 2015 at 11:41 am

    Shouldn’t let a fun day of golf turn into a tragedy by driving drunk.Have a designated driver and I don’t mean the one in your golf bag.

  14. Randy

    March 5, 2015 at 11:43 am

    Scots are sensible people.

  15. Gareth

    March 5, 2015 at 11:43 am

    I find it disturbing that you are suggesting this is a bad thing. I would have thought if you are not comfortable driving on the “wrong side of the road/car” you would not even consider having a single drink in the first place! Taxis are cheap in Scotland.

  16. John Corman

    March 5, 2015 at 11:44 am

    Frankly, a case of my following an over-hyped headline into a shoulder-shrugging article. Good to be aware of new limits but nothing that should have a “huge effect” on one’s golf vacation. Get a grip dude.

  17. Frank

    March 5, 2015 at 11:47 am

    Don’t let a fun day of golf turn into a tragedy by driving drunk.Have a designated driver and I don’t mean the driver in your golf bag.

  18. Max

    March 5, 2015 at 11:51 am

    Speaking as owner of Great British Golf – a tour operator specialising in Scotland
    any group of golfers driving around ( usually on the wrong side of the road) on Scottish highways and byeways is probably mad in any case. We have so many professional transfer companies its also not necessary. In addition -once you get to 4 golfers arriving at EDI airport with their full kit, the cost of hiring is usually more than the transfers in any case!
    I have one group in Germany calling themselves the Drink and Drive Club but its a reference to their favourite club off the tee – they are never seen behind a wheel
    Think, before you drink, before you drive

  19. sean

    March 5, 2015 at 11:57 am

    what a shame you cant drink and drive you stupid prick.

  20. Scottish Golfer

    March 5, 2015 at 11:58 am

    Poor, biased and misinformed article. The most important issue; the roads will be safer…

  21. Syd

    March 5, 2015 at 12:01 pm

    What a load of rubbish. Seems like the person who wrote this article cares more for his tipple than the wonderful golf experiences in Scotland.

    The difference in what you can drink now makes it easier to know when you can drive safely and if drinking is more important than driving safely i am sure this guy needs to sober up to the facts.

    I am a Scot and i do not have a problem with playing golf/drinking/driving with the new law. I would if i was an alcoholic,shame on your poor reporting.

  22. Dean

    March 5, 2015 at 12:05 pm

    Americans are not used to these complications:
    -Driving on the left-hand side of the street.
    -Roundabouts.
    -Unfamiliar street signs and driving customs.
    -Unease with manual transmissions.
    -Unfamiliar locale.

    Throw in alcohol and problems will ensue.

  23. Wes

    March 5, 2015 at 12:06 pm

    I for one think it’s a great idea because even though I can handle my liquor consumption while driving I’m not sure all the others out there can handle theirs if you know what I mean.

  24. Turquelblue

    March 5, 2015 at 12:12 pm

    So all the adverts I hear on US radio about the dangers of drinking and driving are just to fill in air time are they?

  25. Dave

    March 5, 2015 at 12:27 pm

    Dalene, BITE ME, if you think everyone that has a pint is a loser. What world do you live in??

  26. ken

    March 5, 2015 at 12:27 pm

    TAXI!!!!!
    I do it all the time. If we drink, we take a cab….Beers on the course? Front 9 only.

  27. TC

    March 5, 2015 at 12:34 pm

    Uber

  28. Tony Lesirge

    March 5, 2015 at 12:34 pm

    Many European countries have zero tolerance to drink/Driving. Let’s be fair and say enjoy your golf and get a cab to where you need to go afterwards. Then you can really relax after the round. Drink driving laws are there for a reason. Don’t make it sound that golf ears are being punished. Golf Vacation don’t frighten everyone this way with such a cheap headline.

  29. Daniel

    March 5, 2015 at 12:39 pm

    So, drink your pint and hang-out for an hour – relax socialize with the locals for awhile. No issue.

  30. DREW

    March 5, 2015 at 12:51 pm

    WHAT A LOAD OF RUBBISH. IT BRINGS SCOTLAND IN LINE WITH THE REST OF EUROPE . AFTER SEEING AMERICAIN DRIVERS I WOULD SUGGEST THEY BE BANNED FROM DRINKING , THEY ARE BAD ENOUGH SOBER

  31. Doug

    March 5, 2015 at 12:59 pm

    This article was a waste of time. You can do better!

  32. alex

    March 5, 2015 at 1:06 pm

    UBER here you go !!!!

  33. Steven howard Hansen Esq.

    March 5, 2015 at 1:16 pm

    Progressivism equals today’s Communism.

  34. Bill

    March 5, 2015 at 1:29 pm

    Yeah, hire a cab.
    Enjoy a pint or two and a laugh with the locals.
    Try it Marlene, you might like it.!

  35. David

    March 5, 2015 at 1:31 pm

    It might be instructive to look up the number of people killed or injured every year in alcohol related incidents in the United States where 0.08 is still the law. I believe you will find that the military conflicts we are in and have been in in the past have killed or injured fewer. The site to go to can be found on Google by looking up NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration).

  36. Bill

    March 5, 2015 at 1:32 pm

    Yeah, Hire a cab.
    Enjoy a pint or two and a laugh with the locals.
    Try it Marlene, live a little.

  37. Bill

    March 5, 2015 at 1:33 pm

    Yeah, hire a cab

  38. JohnD

    March 5, 2015 at 1:45 pm

    you are on vacation. hire a driver!

  39. Tom

    March 5, 2015 at 2:02 pm

    I happen to agree with the article. The roads in Scotland would be a lot safer and more lives saved if resources were channelled into improving road junctions instead of penalising the sensible driver who likes a pint after his round of golf. Already two golf courses have closed down in the Edinburgh area as income is substantially reduced…many more pubs going the same way. All this talk of arranging a dedicated driver is nonsense unless its an outing…people will simply not bother. Hope the SNP are pleased with themselves…and I am one of them too !!

  40. Par-Pete

    March 5, 2015 at 2:17 pm

    Same as anywhere, if you drink – don’t phukin drive meathead. Pretty simple really….or am I typing too fast?

  41. William

    March 5, 2015 at 2:18 pm

    This article was definitely written by someone who has a serious alcohol problem. Get your priorities right!

  42. Par-Pete

    March 5, 2015 at 2:19 pm

    Same anywhere. If you drink – don’t drive.
    Pretty simple really….or am I typing too fast?

  43. ken

    March 5, 2015 at 2:22 pm

    with over 500 golf courses in Scotland I am going to start a taxi service!

  44. Jim

    March 5, 2015 at 2:37 pm

    I would love to travel to Scotland to play golf. I’m not going to schedule it around drinking. I feel the same as others. Drink a few hang out for a while drive home or call a cab. It is not that difficult

  45. Tony

    March 5, 2015 at 2:42 pm

    You better not come over to Australia either then. In Victoria especially (where the famous sand belt courses are like Royal Melbourne) it has been .05 for a very long time. Probationary and Learner drivers it is 0.0 BAC.
    Please, if you cannot simply organise a designated driver or just simply get a taxi then how do you even manage to go overseas in the first place? Stay home.
    Lower BAC = lower road toll you git.
    Stand up in front of a person who has been touched road trauma and relay this rubbish.

  46. Louis Roren

    March 5, 2015 at 2:57 pm

    In Norway we have had a 0,5 limit for a good many years. And there was an outcry when first introduced. Since then not even a whimper has been heard.
    We are all safer for it. And this detracts anyone from going golfing to Scotland, I’d say; thanks for staying home.

  47. chris m

    March 5, 2015 at 3:34 pm

    should never drink and drive. pretty sensible approach. the article was pretty lame. lots of options to travel, drink (if you want), and be safe. not that hard.

    Dalene – you have a very small mind.

  48. Mas

    March 5, 2015 at 3:49 pm

    I don’t drive in countries where people drive on the “opposite side” of the road.

  49. James P

    March 5, 2015 at 3:55 pm

    Like always its about the money and how much they can squeeze out of the visitors

  50. PaulG

    March 5, 2015 at 4:00 pm

    To be precise – An imperial pint is 20 imperial ounces, not 20 U.S. ounces.
    An imperial pint (568.26 ml) is some 20% larger than a U.S. pint (473.176 ml), which would make the imperial pint about 19.2 U.S. ounces.

  51. David

    March 5, 2015 at 4:04 pm

    In Australia (at least in my state – Victoria) .05 has been the drinking limit for years and the road toll has gone down like a lead balloon. Good on you Scotland for making your place a safer place to visit.

  52. Mick

    March 5, 2015 at 4:09 pm

    Having done the Inverness Highland Tour twice in the past four years Scotland is expensive for other UK visitors.
    We picked up two cars at Inverness airport. Mini-cabbing to Royal Dornoch Not cost effective when hire cars alread paid for.
    Don’t think either driver drank but to be breathalysed during a routine stop after admitting to just 1 pint consumed > an hour before seems a tad officious.
    Drink drivers usually have several drinks as opposed to just 1 or 2 and usually unlicensed, therefore uninsured in vehicles often untaxed.
    Perhaps that is where the issue really lies as opposed to pursuing the motorist who may have 1 beer after a long round.

  53. Alex

    March 5, 2015 at 4:16 pm

    Are you traveling to Scotland to play golf or to play golf and drink? It’s a non-issue!

  54. Alan

    March 5, 2015 at 4:23 pm

    This article has lowered the whole website with its ridiculous logic. In Australia we have had .05 for a long time and it doesn’t stop players having a drink after a game, they also have something to eat which helps alleviate the effects of alcohol. I’d rather finish my holiday on a golf course than in a hospital.

  55. Morgan

    March 5, 2015 at 4:50 pm

    You are an idiot for bringing this non-issue up. If you don’t have something valid or worthwhile to bring up better to keep your pie hole shut and not waste our time. In fact as soon as I am done typing I will remove myself from your mailing list.

  56. Chris

    March 5, 2015 at 5:03 pm

    Simple – don’t go to Scotland!

  57. Michael

    March 5, 2015 at 5:16 pm

    Are you for real you think it’s ok for someone to drink and drive If someone can’t go and have a enjoyable round of golf without getting half pissed after the round then these people have a serious problem I’m more than happy to enjoy a nice cup of coffee then drive safely home

  58. Ru Macdonald

    March 5, 2015 at 5:16 pm

    On Twitter I shared my thoughts with Tim and voiced my disagreement on what I belive is unnecessary scaremongering. Is this law worth knowing about? yes. Is it worthy of a sensationalist article? No. As someone who podcast’s on this subject and works in the golf tourism industry here in Scotland I believe I’m with the majority when I say, nothing to worry about.

  59. Bob

    March 5, 2015 at 5:47 pm

    The stats on ‘drunk’ driver accidents never reveal how few are caused by drivers registering between .05 and .08. The new law will kill Scotland’s pubs as it has in Australia.

  60. Brian Neville

    March 5, 2015 at 7:10 pm

    This is another reason to golf in Ireland, and avoid Scotland.

  61. Tom D

    March 5, 2015 at 7:38 pm

    Going in June and can’t wait to have a couple of drinks after the front nine.

  62. Noel Leckie

    March 5, 2015 at 8:10 pm

    What a load of crap.
    Drinking and driving legal level has been .05 in Australia for 30 years.
    Golf Vacation Insider is without credability.

  63. Tim Gavrich

    March 5, 2015 at 9:03 pm

    I appreciated the exchange with you today, Ru.

    ***For all who have commented so far, the fault is completely mine for not communicating the following points effectively enough in this piece:

    1) We at GVI do not oppose the enacting of this change in the law. Not in the slightest. Drunk driving should certainly be curtailed and punished wherever and whenever possible and prudent. If you interpreted this piece any different, I am entirely at fault for writing it imprecisely in that regard.
    2) We have always strongly supported taking cabs and hiring drivers on trips abroad. This revision of the drunk driving law only strengthens our suggestions to that effect. We thought it significant that one can be above the legal limit after one drink. This is not the case in the U.S., from where many golfers journey to Scotland. Whether one drink is enough to legally impair someone from driving is a matter of debate, as evidenced by the different standards in different countries. With that in mind, at the very least, we think this is something to consider when planning a golf trip to Scotland.
    3) Golfers are so diverse of disposition that there are some for whom extracurricular activities are as much a part of a golf trip as the golf itself. We are golf-first people, but we can’t deny that there are those who feel differently. Certainly there may be people who would find being legally ineligible to drive after one drink a big inconvenience. These people are certainly in the minority but might be particularly interested to learn of this change in Scottish law.

    As always, we thank you for reading and commenting.

    –Tim

  64. Dean

    March 5, 2015 at 10:28 pm

    Dalene, sorry you’re an arrogant, obnoxious person who nobody wants to associate with, and in due time, will not.

    Sincerely,

    Everyone who’s not a self-centered a**hole.

  65. Come on

    March 6, 2015 at 3:55 am

    Really? If getting drunk after a round is your goal, why don’t you arrange a driver?
    Or if you can’t, then why not alternate the driver role among your buddies? Even the driver can still enjoy a pint (or half a pint to be on the really safe side).

    And if everyone in your travel group really must have at least two pints every night, then why can’t you take a taxi? If you can afford a trip to Scotland, surely a taxi ride can’t break you budget?

    The new limit is not that special, we’we had it in our country for as long as I can remember, and we can safely enjoy half a pint after the round. In Sweden the legal limit for driving is an even lower 0.2%. But even so, golf is a really popular hobby in that country. This article must be the worst piece of vacation advice written on this site. If you can afford foreign travel, then surely a taxi drive is a non-issue, if you really are that dependent on getting drunk.

  66. Mike

    March 6, 2015 at 8:05 am

    Good article. I was in St. Andrews last May and our driver abstained on the days when we drove out of town to golf. Lots of opportunity after the round in the evening for a drink. I travel to Phoenix every Fall and we always designate a driver as Maricopa county is well known for harsh punishment for DUI’s.

  67. Anders

    March 6, 2015 at 11:03 am

    Never drink and drive zero tolerence

  68. Jon Heisler

    March 6, 2015 at 12:06 pm

    I’m all in favor of Scotland’s government lowering the legal blood-alcohol limit while driving from .08% to .05%. But wouldn’t it make sense to simultaneously lower the legal blood-alcohol limit for chipping, putting and hitting iron shots???

  69. Jimmy

    March 6, 2015 at 12:46 pm

    This reminds me of the man who unfortunately died in his sleep – with a smile on his face – unlike his passengers.

  70. Tony

    March 6, 2015 at 4:59 pm

    Tim, instead of just trying to justify your comments by the points you have added, why not offer some kind of apology as well. You only partially manned up by accepting you made an error in judgment. You said yourself that the fault was with you for “writing it imprecisely”

    Now nan up further and apologise for your oversights and we can all move on.

  71. Bob

    March 7, 2015 at 6:15 pm

    Lowering the blood alcohol limit is politically popular, but what research is it based on? We are never given the figures of accidents involving drivers with low range [.05 to .08 ]. All we hear about are higher range incidents. I suspect very few drivers in the target range are involved.

  72. Wendy Machin

    March 8, 2015 at 3:12 am

    This has been law in Australia for a couple of decades and has been a big contributor to a reduction in road deaths. And the good news is, golf clubs here still exist. Maybe try drinking something smaller than pint, or light beer, or pick a mate to be the “designated driver”. But when you drink it, make it,cold!!

  73. Pete

    March 10, 2015 at 2:57 pm

    What a ridiculous article; the sensible law change will have no impact whatsoever on visitor numbers to Scotland . Scotland has simply come into line with Ireland and the rest of Europe. England, Wales and N.I. will follow The Home of Golf in due course.

  74. JKC

    March 10, 2015 at 3:19 pm

    There more golfers that drink a beer or scotch etc during or after a round than those who don’t. The lowering level to a BAC of .05 is overkill.

    .08 is low enough to do its job. Too bad for the pub owners trying to make a living.

  75. Richard

    March 11, 2015 at 5:04 am

    Wish they could lower the level here in South Africa where our road death toll is frightening.Weekends especially.Maybe our authorities should take a leaf out of the book of countries in the Northern hemisphere.

  76. Richard

    March 11, 2015 at 5:08 am

    Lowering the alcohol level is not always a solution to the scourge of drunk driving.A level of zero percent would would be the answer.Might hurt the pub ownwer but it will make roads safer.

  77. Curtiss

    March 24, 2015 at 2:11 pm

    Last trip to Scotland, we ran into a pub owner who told us that the pub business was way down due to the fact that workers didn’t come into the pubs after work anymore, because the police had cracked down on suspected driving while under the influence. This was long before this law went into effect. Who can fault the lowering of blood alcohol levels. As an ortho surgeon who has seen his share of smashed up people innocently hit by a drunk, I wish we would do the same in the US. Alcohol and golf don’t mix. Go to wherever you are staying to drink or get a designated driver.

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